Dar Mikula - BFA, LMT, Author at Florida School of Massage

Author Archive

A Greyhound To Gainesville

by Dar Mikula

    Dar at FSM: May 1992

It’s December in Buffalo and a mixed blessing for us in this City of Good Neighbors. The warm glow of red and green holiday houselights reflect the crisp season of cheer in the freshly fallen snow, and meanwhile the bitter wind is ripping its way across icy Lake Erie and straight into my bones. I’m living in my sister’s basement in a room she built for me when I moved back 19 months earlier after living in Seattle for the latter half of the 1980’s. It’s 1991, I’m 30 years old, I’m working part-time as a cashier at the Convenient Food Mart and part-time as a page in the Lancaster Library. My bachelors degree in creative writing sits stalled on my desk in a black 8×10 picture frame after a successful yet brief career in journalism. I jump up and down on a mini trampoline to keep warm and stay lean because it’s too frigid to exercise outside. My mom and dad live two miles from me; my brother, grandmother and other relatives are within a five-mile radius. This is my home.

I’m still close with one or two friends from my childhood; in fact my buddy Roger and I have been dabbling in massage. He’s bought a massage table and so we take turns giving each other a back or foot rub. He’s got an irritable back from standing and bending all day and has read that massage might help. I’ve just come from five years of living in the Pacific Northwest where it seemed every other person I met was a massage therapist. I’d received plenty of bodywork and informal training as a result, so I just repeat on him what I’ve had done or shown to me.

An Open Letter To My Beloved FSM Community

Self-empowerment and awareness, with a balance between freedom and structure, have long been the pearls for me in my life at FSM. I have grown by navigating challenges, transformed by using my hands and opening my heart, and expanded my experiences by questioning my beliefs. Being in relationship, both personal and professional, has taught me the value of human connection and the power of true listening. Administering to and serving the FSM community has been the greatest joy and blessing for almost half of my life. It’s become a comfort zone where I do my job and I do it well.

So as another year comes to a close, I truly feel it’s time to risk a little, and yet trust the universe that my soul’s next purpose will be revealed. My desire is to open myself to discovering what else I have come here to do, and to utilize the gifts I may still hold in exile.

Having said that, I have resigned as Assistant Director at FSM. I’m not sick or dying, I don’t have a better job offer, I’m not leaving Gainesville, and no one in my family is calling me home. I have no plan for the coming year. My soul intention is to take the next breath, and the one after that, and the one after that. And see what comes.

I’m still in love with FSM.  The school and you all as students, graduates, colleagues – my friends and teachers – have benefited me in ways deeply revealed and precious, yet still unknown and mysterious. I acknowledge the inner rewards that have come from surmounting incredible challenges, and now the inspiration and courage to make this next choice for myself. The school has proven time and time again: no one else is responsible for me except me.

My last day as assistant director will be Monday, January 30.

In Love and Faith and Gratitude,

:: Dar ::

NEW! Sports Massage Advanced Training

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  • Lectures from top sports medicine professionals
  • Application of specific massage techniques for injuries and musculoskeletal dysfunctions

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Through our small group centered lectures with athletic trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors, and personal trainers, you will have a first hand knowledge of how to collaborate with other sports medicine practitioners in the groundbreaking sports medicine field.

FSM Graduate Opens Local Wellness Gym



 Jason Atkins-Tufts

Editor’s Note: We recently sat down with Jason Atkins-Tuffs, a 2003 graduate of our massage program and a recent graduate of our teacher training program. Atkins-Tuffs recently started his own gym, Gainesville Wellness and Performance, and is also now a member of the FSM faculty. Here’s a little more about how FSM played a role in his ongoing journey.

What were you doing for work before your FSM training? 

I was a chef/kitchen manager. 

What do you do now?

I am a partner in Gainesville Wellness and Performance where I perform exercise physiology, nutrition and lifestyle design, and massage therapy. 

What was it about the FSM experience that inspired you to do what you do now?

FSM was my first exposure to the field of human development. By learning how to create a healthy space for myself and my client, I was able to begin the process of making a passion of mine – helping other people – into a fulfilling career. 

Focus On Maternity Massage

by Leslie Stager

Leslie Stager

My friend has a busy sports massage practice. She works with pregnant and non-pregnant clients often doing deep tissue work in hip adductors, hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps. One day we were discussing pregnancy massage adaptations — sidelying and semi-reclining positions, altered body mechanics, and relevant bodywork precautions.

“What precautions?” she asked.

I mentioned the 5x increased risk of developing blood clots during pregnancy, and greater risk for six weeks after birth. I stated that massage therapists should do thorough intakes and adjust their bodywork for those with specific risk factors, such as recent airplane travel, obesity, a history of previous clots, carrying twins or more, being over 35 years old, or recent cesarean section. Seventy-five percent of pregnant and postnatal women who develop clots have one or more of these risk factors.

Who Will Teach Us To Give Birth To Our Souls?

by Mary Reis

“Who will teach us to give birth to our souls,

to be life-giving creative centers of energy

instead of death-dealing centers of inertia?”

—Camille Campbell in Meditations with Theresa of Avila 


mary reis staff photo

I came across this quote at the beginning of “Stillness: Biodynamic Cranial Touch and the Evolution of Consciousness” by Charles Ridley. Having recently finished the Biodynamic Cranial Touch Mentor Course, I was reflecting back on the long journey of my BCT training and picked up this book, which is the required reading. Reading this quote I was transported back to the beginning of my journey into bodywork and the rebirth of my own soul.  

FSM Instructor Elected President of Reflexology Association

Reflexology Association America (RAA) Karen BallFlorida School of Massage faculty member Karen Ball has been elected as President of the Reflexology Association of America (RAA). Her term began July 1. Ball has been recognized twice nationally for her contribution to the field of reflexology: in 2014 she received the RAA President’s Award and this year received the Education Award as a “quintessential educator” and for “serving as a role model for all educators to inspire students to aspire to create a successful life on their own terms.”

For more than 25 years, Ball has added her unique reflexology approach to the Massage and Hydrotherapy Program offered at the Florida School of Massage, from which she graduated in 1989. She is also the creator of the 315-hour Therapeutic Hand & Foot Reflexology Professional Certification program.

The Power of Biodynamic Cranial Touch

~One Person’s Story of Healing and Recovery

By Jeannie Kelley

J KelleyI have studied several forms of craniosacral work over the years and can truly appreciate the various perspectives that have evolved out of the osteopathic lineage. Prior to fully exploring the Biodynamic realm in a formal class, I had experienced its nature multiple times when receiving sessions. On every single occasion – whether subtle (like energetic synchronicities) or profound (like when a part of my essence returned to my body in a way that made healing and recovery from an accident much more rapid in the time that followed) – there was something about “it”.

And whatever “IT” was, I wanted more of it! Between my impressions of Giorgia Milne as a teacher, and the depth of my experience in that first Initiatory Course, it was obvious that embarking on the year-long Mentor training was the next right choice.

What Lights Your Fire?

by Frank Merillat

frank staff photo

While sitting listening to music this morning I happened across the Door’s recording of Light My Fire. Later while out walking my dogs I got to thinking about life, education and what lights my fire. I thought about how my interests and work have changed over the 20 plus years I have been learning about the body and practicing my craft. I realized how blessed I have been to have FSM here and all the wonderful opportunities available to study and grow with the work.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

By Dar Mikula

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”  – From “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Suess

One of the many blessings of my job is that I get to reach out to graduates and find outdar how they are doing once they’ve graduated.  In my recent cycle of calls, my attention was drawn to the diversity of paths each one of us is on, even though we all share the same qualification as “licensed massage therapists”.  In talking with graduates of our October 2014 massage program, I learned the stories of two fascinating women, both of whom share the same name and both graduates of the same program. Here is the story of the variance and intrigue of the two directions they went in after completing their training here.